“What’s it like, where you’re from?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what’s it like? The people, the scenery. Is it anything like what we have here?”

Dante raised an eyebrow at the girl, watching her sit with her legs over the ledge of the balcony, her bare feet swinging to and fro through the air.

“Why would it be any different?” He asked.

“Papa read me a book about different places, with names I couldn’t pronounce.” She scrunched up her nose at the memory. “I was wondering if you were from a place like that. With an exotic name and exotic people.”

He laughed, looking back out over the city, the lights all flickering, growing brighter as the sun continued to set. The palace was away in the distance, a shimmering spire of ivory and gold. “No, not really. People tend to be alike the world over.”

“Really? But you don’t look like anyone here. Your skin is too tan, and your eyes are gold.” She was staring at him, eyes narrowed in concentration. “I like it, but it’s not normal.”

“Are you saying I’m weird?” He asked, looking back at her, eyebrows raised. “That’s a fine thing to say about a man you’ve only just met.”

“No, no, I didn’t mean it that way!” She protested. “It’s a nice sort of abnormal. Not the bad kind.”

“I didn’t know there was a nice sort of abnormal.” He said, laughing.

“Of course there is. There’s a nice sort of anything. Even witches.” She giggled.

He was silent for a moment, returning his gaze to the city. “You know, my mother was a witch.”

“No way, really?” She gaped at him. “What did she do? I mean, did she make potions? Or did she predict the future?”

“No, no, nothing like that.” Dante smiled. “Where I come from, we call people like that ‘drabarni’, or healer, in your language. My mother helped a lot of people in our troupe.”

Drabarni.” The girl repeated, trying out the new word. “What did you call your father?”

Baro. He was the leader.”

She laughed. “I like that. Maybe I should start calling Papa that. He might like it.”

“Or he might kick me out of the house for teaching you such things.” Dante argued, chuckling. “One never knows with him.”

“No, he wouldn’t kick you out. He likes you.” She smiled, leaning in close enough to nudge his shoulder with hers. “I like you too.”

Dante felt heat begin to creep up the back of his neck, gold eyes finding blue as he stared at her. He opened his mouth to speak, but a call from inside interrupted him, the Commander calling for his daughter.

“Oh, speaking of the baro, there he is now.” She carefully swung her legs back over the balcony’s railing, calling back to him. “Coming, Papa!”

Dante caught her hand before she could walk back into the house, kissing the back of her hand. “I like you too, Cecelia.”

She smiled, bright as the sun in the gathering dusk. “I know, Dante.”


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